The Great Public School Smack Down

Which high schools are best? Which are worst? And most important, why? Herein, the rankings, from 1 to 33 and then some, with commentary from some of the people who have helped make them great—or let the


Cool Schools


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A ranking of public high schools, from the heights of academic achievement to the basement. Is your child in the right place? (Schools are ranked by student performance on the 2005-2006 DSTPs.)




Address and phone number

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DSTP scores: math/reading; SAT scores: math/verbal

Average class size; Student-teacher ratio

Graduation rate (percentage)

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Post-secondary ed (percentage)

No. of academic prep courses offered



1) Charter School of Wilmington

100 N. DuPont Road, Wilmington, 651-2727

Red Clay Consolidated School District

Ronald Russo

DSTP: 570.11/609.02   SAT: 632/620

Size: 24    Ratio: 21:1

Grad: 98   Post-secondary: 98   AP: 18

Some critics say the school’s ability to choose its students is the reason behind its ranking near the top in every academic category, but Red Clay school board president Irwin Becnel says the school has followed the state laws and does not unfairly select the smartest students. “They are very meticulous to make sure the admissions process abides by state law…the criticism is unfair,” he says.


2) Cab Calloway School of the Arts

100 N. DuPont Road, Wilmington, 651-2700

Red Clay Consolidated School District

Julie Rumschlag

DSTP: 552.27/535.01   SAT: 502/546

Size: 28   Ratio: 18.7:1

Grad: 96.3   Post-secondary: 90   AP: 12

As the state’s only public high school specializing in the performing arts, Cab provides an opportunity for students that might not otherwise excel at a standard high school, says Red Clay school board president Irwin Becnel. “But if a kid is not interested in the field, the child won’t succeed,” he says. “It’s that simple.”


3) Sussex Technical High School

17099 County Seat Hwy., Georgetown, 856-0961

Sussex Technical School District

Curt Bunting

DSTP: 544.63/538.84   SAT: 466/481

Size: 14.2   Ratio: 13.4:1

Grad: 96.95   Post-secondary: 70   AP: 1

Sussex Tech has found unprecedented success with state assessments, not only by technical school standards, but by any standards. “With the curriculum standards the way they are, it’s very difficult to find the time to align the two curriculums,” says carpentry teacher Gary Stewart. “It’s a different caliber of kids we have now. They’re smart, articulate, diversified.”


4) Cape Henlopen High School

1250 Kings Hwy., Lewes, 645-7711

Cape Henlopen School District

John Yore

DSTP: 548.69/526.76*   SAT: 482/486

Size: 14.3   Ratio: 14:1

Grad: 84.15   Post-secondary: 78   AP: 6

While most districts across the state are having problems passing just one referendum, Cape Henlopen School District was able to pass two in the past year, including one that will make it possible for the district to build an eco-friendly high school. The school board has also stepped up and now covers the cost of AP exams for its students, says president Gary Wray.

(*Error giving the test for CH’s reading section, so this score is from 2004-2005 school year.)


5) Milford Senior High School

1019 N. Walnut St., Milford, 422-1610

Milford School District

Phyllis Kohel

DSTP: 544.01/530.92   SAT: 472/465

Size: 27.54   Ratio: 13.6:1

Grad: 79.4   Post-secondary: 84   AP: 5

Packed classrooms are not something the district is satisfied with, says school board president Marvin Schelhouse, but there is only so much that can be done about the crowding. “We’re not happy about that, but were dealing with it,” he says, adding that the district’s ability to deal with the growth depends on a referendum that was scheduled for November.


6) Indian River High School

Rural Route 3, Box 112, Frankford, 732-1500

Indian River School District

Mark Steele

DSTP: 547.25/523.68   SAT: 512/509

Size: 20.73   Ratio: 16.9:1

Grad: 86.74   Post-secondary: 70   AP: 5

Last school year, Indian River graduated the first class from its expansive new 157-acre facility, though the high school was one of only two in the district not to receive a Superior DSTP rating in 2006. “But [Indian River] is working on it,” says school board president Charles Bireley. “We were there in 2005, and we’re working hard to pick up that little bit of slack.”


7) Caesar Rodney High School

239 Old North Road, Camden, 697-2161

Caesar Rodney School District

Kevin Fitzgerald

DSTP: 544.3/525.75   SAT: 492/497

Size: 25.58   Ratio: 18.5:1

Grad: 88.45   Post-secondary: 67   AP: 11

CR has shut down the option to choice into the school, but class sizes are still growing, which doesn’t sit well with school board vice president David Henderson. The only way to combat the increase in students would be to curb growth in the area, which Henderson says is neither desired nor possible. Instead, the board has focused on adding AP classes and improving DSTP scores. It is succeeding on both counts.


8) Brandywine High School

1400 Foulk Road, Wilmington, 479-1600

Brandywine School District

Richard Gregg

DSTP: 542.37/526.93   SAT: 537/521

Size: 15.67   Ratio: 14.7:1

Grad: 90.4   Post-secondary: 51   AP: 16

It’s fairly easy to succeed when the staff and the students are on the same page, says school board president Craig Gilbert. “They have a strong leadership and administration team, and the student body is very much aligned with the school’s focus.”


9) Delaware Military Academy

112 Middleboro Road, Wilmington, 998-0745

Red Clay Consolidated School District

Commandant Charles Baldwin

DSTP: 539.55/529.15   SAT: NA

Size: 21   Ratio: 18.9:1

Grad: 99.2   Post-secondary: 80 college, 20 military   AP: 8

As with most military academies, this school’s strengths lie with its leader, says DMA PTA president Penny Tambourelli. “With the commandant, anything we have asked for, we have been accommodated. He truly loves these kids. There’s not an event that goes on at school that he does not attend.”


10) Alexis I. duPont High School

50 Hillside Road, Wilmington, 651-2626

Red Clay Consolidated School District

Sam Golder

DSTP: 541.22/527.12   SAT: 522/514

Size: 20.4   Ratio: 17.6:1

Grad: 81.82   Post-secondary: 85   AP: 16

As one of the larger schools in the state, A.I. has considered having one larger lecture class that fans out into smaller sections, similar to a larger college course, as an attempt to fight the growth in student population, says Red Clay school board president Irwin Becnel.


11) Delmar Senior High School

200 N. Eighth St., Delmar, 846-9544

Delmar School District

Cathy Townsend

DSTP: 539.45/525.72   SAT: 492/485

Size: 23.39   Ratio: 15.71:1

Grad: 84.73   Post-secondary: 86   AP: 4

Strong academics at this “Superior”-rated district are a driving force, especially to newcomers to the growing Sussex area, says superintendent David Ring. At the same time, he says, the district maintains close communications with builders and developers that will affect any forthcoming growth that might skew classroom size.


12) Concord High School

2501 Ebright Road, Wilmington, 475-3951

Brandywine School District

Mark Holodick

DSTP: 537.42/524.34   SAT: 513/497

Size: 25.3   Ratio: 15.6

Grad: 89.43   Post-secondary: 86   AP: 15

Many of the current teachers and administrators at the school were former Raiders themselves, which creates a familial environment, according to school board president Craig Gilbert. “There’s a real sense of school pride,” he says.


13) Paul M. Hodgson Vocational Technical High School

2575 Glasgow Ave., Newark, 834-0990

NCC VoTech School District

Gerald Allen

DSTP: 539.24/517.78   SAT: 448/439

Size: 23*   Ratio: 12.91

Grad: 99.13   Post-secondary: 41   AP: 0

After a few years of declining participation with the school’s PTSA, parents and teachers have recently become more involved, president Barbara Doles says, which has resulted in a well-informed student body. “There is very good communication between administration and parents.” (*Class size doesn’t factor into career labs, which are typically smaller.)


14) Polytech High School

823 Walnut Shade Road, Woodside, 697-3255

Polytech School District

Bruce Curry

DSTP: 534.79/520.99   SAT: 455/454

Size: 14.07   Ratio: 12

Grad: 96.21   Post-secondary: NA    AP: 3

Polytech continues to focus on improving the achievement gap, but school board president James Collins says the school has improved faster than expected, which has resulted in a “Superior” rating from the Delaware Department of Education. “It’s more than a school,” Curry says. “It’s a dream that has come true. It has grown tremendously from the concept of a trade school to a comprehensive high school. We have input not just from the parents and students, but also from the advisory committee.”


15) Mount Pleasant High School

5201 Washington St. Extension, Wilmington, 762-7125

Brandywine School District

Michael Pullig (acting)

DSTP: 534.87/517.04   SAT: 476/485

Size: 16.51   Ratio: 15.2

Grad: 82.29   Post-secondary: 70   AP: 13

Despite a string of bomb threats early in the school year, the school is a safe place to send your child, says school board president Craig Gilbert. It also hosts the only International Baccalaureate program at a public high school in the state.


16) Middletown High School

120 Silver Lake Road, Middletown, 376-4141

Appoquinimink School District

Donna Mitchell

DSTP: 533.5*/518.36   SAT: 494/487

Size: 29   Ratio: 18.1:1

Grad: 81   Post-secondary: 70.5   AP: 16

The district is building a new high school that should relieve the strain on Middletown, but the teachers are handling it as best they can, school board member Edna Cale says. To combat the large enrollment, the school has instituted a ninth grade academy that helps students transition from middle school to high school. “We don’t want the students to get lost in the system,” Cale says.


17) Sussex Central High School

26026 Patriots Way, Georgetown, 934-3166

Indian River School District

Dana Goodman

DSTP: 534.87/516.32   SAT: 478/487

Size: 29   Ratio: 16:1

Grad: 81.61   Post-secondary: NA   AP: 5

New on the scene at Sussex Central is Dana Goodman, who has brought with him a solid work ethic to match the school’s impressive new building. “He’s doing very well,” says school board president Charles Bireley. “He’s brought in this ability to really work hard, and he has the best of the school in his heart.”


18) Laurel High School

1133 S. Central Ave., Laurel, 875-6120

Laurel School District

Dean Ivory

DSTP: 529.99/519.06   SAT: 443/450

Size: 18.72   Ratio: 15.8:1

Grad: 78   Post-secondary: NA   AP: 4

The school has increased its focus on improving dropout rates and DSTP scores, while trying to create an educational package for each individual student, school board member Harvey Hyland says. Yet the district’s requirement to meet government standards, both state and federal, may actually make more students slip through the cracks, he says. “I don’t see where it addresses the students who have basic learning problems, and those are the kids who we lose.”


19) Smyrna High School

500 Duck Creek Pkwy., Smyrna, 653-8581

Smyrna School District

Anthony Soligo

DSTP: 531.85/515.24   SAT: 466/463

Size: 14.59   Ratio: 16.6:1

Grad: 83.8   Post-secondary: 49   AP: 4

Smyrna’s family environment has made it an excellent climate for special-needs students, but the school is striving as a whole to improve DSTP curriculum. “We want to be ‘Commendable’ again, if not ‘Superior,’” says school board vice president Lynne Newlin. The school is also working to address a booming Smyrna population. “We need classroom space,” she says. “That would enhance the quality of our education.”


20) Delcastle Technical High School

1417 Newport Road, Wilmington, 995-8100

NCC VoTech School District

Joseph Jones

DSTP: 531.68/512.25   SAT: 423/414

Size: 23   Ratio: 12.7:1

Grad: 97.4   Post-secondary: 45   AP: 0

“I think Delcastle has comprehensive programs in areas that reflect contemporary interests from an employment standpoint,” says school board member Arnetta McRae. Digital media and nursing programs are counted among them.


21) Campus Community School

350 Pear St., Dover, 736-0403

Campus Community Charter School

Patricia Hermance

DSTP: 523.28/518.95   SAT: 471/500

Size: 25   Ratio:14.7:1

Grad: 98   Post-secondary: 90   AP: 16*

This Dover-based charter school is proud of its low student-teacher ratio and individual attention, but wants to offer more to its students in the way of sports and activities, says school board president Gloria Homer. It employs an innovative teaching method called the constructivist method, which integrates all subject areas (such as math and its relevance to science, or how the language arts affect history), which provides a more holistic view of society.

(*Students have taken 16 different college courses through Wesley College, but they can choose any offered through the school instead of AP classes.)


22) Lake Forest High School

5407 Killens Pond Road, Felton, 284-9291

Lake Forest School District

Betty Wyatt-Dix

DSTP: 529.66/510.48   SAT: 475/471

Size: 17.47   Ratio: 15.2:1

Grad: 80.7   Post-secondary: 45   AP: 4

Like many schools in the state, Lake Forest has struggled with the achievement gap between white and minority students. But strides have been made, says assistant superintendent John Filicicchia, with the “twilight school” program. It’s an after-hours, computer based curriculum for struggling or working students “that allows them to get credits and graduate with everybody else,” he says.


23) Thomas McKean High School

301 McKennan’s Church Road, Wilmington, 992-5520

Red Clay Consolidated School District

Sherry Gross

DSTP: 528.38/511.74   SAT: 478/487

Size: 25.85   Ratio: 16.7:1

Grad: 69.47   Post-secondary: 75

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